Category Archives: #nowplaying

Hiss Golden Messenger

I posted a few days ago about the live album Father John Misty released to raise funds for the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund — here’s another live set you can download to benefit a great cause.

M.C. Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger is passionate about public education. He’s the son of two teachers, he taught for a time at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and his wife is an ESL instructor in Durham, where his kids attend public schools. If you’ve been to one of his shows lately, you might have seen t-shirts emblazoned with “DEFEND PUBLIC SCHOOLS” for sale at the merch table. (They’re available on his website as well.) He’s even been pausing his sets to give teachers in the audience individual rounds of applause before launching into “I Need a Teacher,” the opening track from his most recent studio album, Terms of Surrender.

He’s keeping the momentum going during social distancing by offering up Forward, Children: A fundraiser for Durham Public Schools students, a new live album documenting his group’s recent two-night stand at the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, North Carolina. It’s available over at Bandcamp. Same deal as the FJM jam: $10 download, with those dollars going somewhere extremely worthy — in this case it’s the Durham Public Schools Foundation, which helps students impacted by school closures find their next meal. As a fellow son of two teachers, I applaud what Taylor is doing, and I hope you’ll join me in this exceedingly enjoyable show of support.

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Father John Misty

You may have seen news about the new Father John Misty live album elsewhere, but I wanted to add my own recommendation.

The download is just $10, with proceeds going to the Recording Academy’s MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund. And it’s an outstanding recording — horns, strings, a nice mix of older and newer songs, and most importantly, a number of tunes whose prescience is unmistakable in light of our current nightmare. “Things It Would’ve Been Helpful To Know Before The Revolution” and “Pure Comedy” are especially affecting in this sense, and “I Went To The Store One Day” and “Ballad Of The Dying Man” strike me as more poignant than ever. Times like these bring out the relevance of his big-picture thinking, even if that thinking results in shrugging about how absurd life on this “godless rock that refuses to die” can be. And his gallows humor has never been more necessary.

So much of what I loved about the set he played at the Atria Theater in June of last year is captured here. Well worth a download — again proceeds go to the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.

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Buy from Bandcamp today!

I posted earlier this week about how buying from Bandcamp is a great way to support artists right now, and today is an excellent day to act on that. Bandcamp is waiving their cut of all transactions today, meaning more of your dollars will go directly to artists, many of whom have seen steep declines in income as a result of COVID-19.

Here are a few recommendations, based on my buying plans:

FM Skyline — Liteware

Been looking forward to putting in a preorder for this since a few Thursdays ago, when I stayed up until midnight for the live YouTube premier of “polygon park.” With the backing of the 100% Electronica label, Pete Curry’s vaporwave project represents one of Richmond’s most ascendant acts at present. The first pressing of his Advanced Memory Suite album sold out, so if vinyl is your thing, I’d recommend acting quickly.

Avery Fogarty — #​(​$​%​&​@​*​&​)​!

Fogarty is the frontwoman of Hotspit, another ascendant Richmond act. When we’re on the other side of all this craziness, I recommend seeing them in person ASAP. Their live show is nothing short of arresting, characterized by big dynamic swings and complex guitar work. Forgary’s solo material focuses more on studies in mood and texture, and I do a joyful dance inside every time a new one shows up on Bandcamp.

The Blue Hens — Heavenly Sunlight

Brand new gospel EP straight outta Galax, Virginia, courtesy of Dori Freeman and husband Nicholas Falk. I had the chance to see them perform the title track at the Richmond Folk Festival. It’s gorgeous, not to mention rhythmically hypnotic.

Elkhorn — The Storm Sessions

A snowstorm caused Elkhorn to cancel their show, so they decided to make an impromptu album, making this a real-life manifestation of making the most of being stuck indoors.

Philip James Murphy Jr — bummer is icumen in

Murphy is a friend of a friend, and I’m so glad the intermediary introduced me to this album earlier this year. Really beautiful and varied. (How about that prophetic title?)

Whether or not you dig the tunes above, what’s important is that we keep finding ways to support musicians right now. For a way more extensive list of Bandcamp options, check out the Auricular’s amazing rundown.

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Saw Black

Hey y’all. First and foremost, I hope everyone is staying healthy and staying home as much as possible. This is some crazy, scary shit, and I hope that if you’re reading this, you and the ones you love are able to look back on this someday soon from a place of relative safety and say “Wow, that was some crazy, scary shit.” (My mom reads this blog, and we typically check in about whether it was really necessary to curse in my writing when I do, and I think even she’d agree that now’s the time to let it fly.)

Like many folks are, I’m trying to keep my family safe while thinking about ways we can all support each other over the weeks and months ahead. I plan to pass along the ideas and opportunities I come across, as long as I’m able, and I thought I’d start with the rarities album Saw Black released yesterday. Bandcamp is a great way to support the artists you love — via merch, music, whatever. I know I’ve leaned toward using the site mostly for vinyl buying and streaming in the past, but now is a great time to throw in some bones for those sweet, sweet mp3s.

Don’t sleep on this particular set — Saw indicated that it’d be available for only a couple of days.

 

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David Shultz

Hope y’all are spinning this today, too. It’s easily the best thing about having an hour rudely wrenched away.

Didn’t notice this liner note when the song was released last year: “All instrumentation performed and recorded by Alan Parker.” Hot damn. Produced by Parker and Andy Jenkins, mixed by Adrian Olsen… dream team all around.

Cheers to David Shultz and co. for giving us a reason to actually relish springing forward. Lost an hour, gained a tradition.

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VOTE

Step 1: VOTE.

Step 2: See that Steady Sounds is offering 10% off to shoppers wearing their “I Voted” stickers.

Step 3: Zoom on over and gleefully pick out a Vince Guaraldi/Bola Sete live album you didn’t know existed.

Step 4: Thank Marty for supporting democracy.

Step 5: Write a blog post encouraging others to vote, go to Steady Sounds, and thank Marty for supporting democracy.

In case you’re not clear on Virginia’s (shameful and transparent) voter I.D. laws, here’s the rundown of what you bring with you:

And here’s a delightful version of “Black Orpheus Suite” from Vince and Bola’s Live at El Matador album:

 

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Bonny Light Horseman

Very much looking forward to this Bonny Light Horseman album. My pre-order is in, two A+ singles are out so far — “Bonny Light Horseman” and “Deep in Love” — and M.C. Taylor has declared it “the best album I’ve heard in years.”

The group is made up of Tony collector Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson (of Fruit Bats, which I’ve been getting to know quite a bit this year), and producer/instrumentalist Josh Kaufman, and they’ve set their collective sights on traditional songs that have been kicking around the British Isles for generations — super exciting if you’re like me and enjoy the conversation between the past and present this kind of album can generate. I love the sense of dimensionality you get from hearing how songs have been interpreted over the years. It’s not about judging or comparing or picking favorite versions. It’s about finding the thread that connects them, and grasping it as a means of revealing how much we have in common with people who lived before us, or who live on the other side of the world.

In that spirit, I thought I’d share a couple other versions of “Bonny Light Horseman” and “Deep in Love” I’ve been bouncing back and forth between. I can’t speak to how prominently these renditions sit lineage-wise, but I think you’ll get a kick out of them. In each case, we’ll start with the newest version and work our way backward.

Bonny Light Horseman — “Bonny Light Horseman”

Just stunning. Mitchell singing lead, saxophone adding color throughout by echoing the narrator’s displacement. I’ve listened to this dozens of times. Feels like I’ve always known it.

Siobhan Miller – “Bonny Light Horseman”

Here’s a very nicely captured live version led by Scotland’s Siobhan Miller, who recorded the song for her 2017 album Strata.

Planxty — “The Bonny Light Horseman”

Enjoying this lament but lamenting that it’s not jauntier? Planxty’s got you covered. (Recorded in the late 1970’s, from what I can tell.)

Bonny Light Horseman — “Deep in Love”

Johnson takes the lead here, and what an ideal vehicle this is for his singing. The flexibility and understated expressiveness that distinguish his voice are in full force here. Message and messenger in perfect alignment.

Matt Quinn — “Deep in Love”

An a cappella version from Sussex-based folk singer Matt Quinn. Released in 2017. A great glimpse into the source material BLH pulled from.

Gladys Stone — “Deep in Love”

This one’s for my real folk nerds. I see you over there flipping through the Folkways section, trying to decide whether you need field recordings of seagulls and butter being churned. (You do. We all do.)

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